Masks won't be mandatory in most N.W.T. schools this fall

Four school boards in the N.W.T. have said there will be no mask mandates in their schools this fall.

Territory says it will be up to school boards whether to implement any COVID-19 measures

École St. Patrick High School in Yellowknife, and other schools across the territory, will not be requiring students to wear masks this school year. (Liny Lamberink/CBC)

Four school boards in the N.W.T. have said there will be no mask mandates in their schools this fall.

That comes after the territory's chief public health officer recommended masks no longer need to be required at schools, since rules for public spaces throughout the rest of the territory have been dropped.

The territory said it will be up to school boards to determine what COVID-19 measures are in place, like masking or class "bubbling," if any.

The Sahtu Divisional Education Council, Dehcho Divisional Education Council, Yellowknife Education District No. 1 and Yellowknife Catholic Schools have all confirmed they won't require masks.

"At this time, all health restrictions that were in place during the 2021-2022 school year have been lifted," read a statement from Renee Closs, superintendent of the Sahtu Divisional Education Council. 

"Students and staff who wish to continue to wear non-medical masks in the school facilities are welcome to do so."

The Department of Education, Culture and Employment said it encourages people to maintain habits like washing hands, staying home when sick, wearing a mask "if you want to," disinfecting surfaces, trying not to share school supplies or food, covering you mouth if sneezing or coughing and giving people space if they ask for it.

The department said it is also working to buy indoor air purifiers for schools with funds from the federal government.

"In the meantime," the department's website reads, "enhanced HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system protocols are still in place in N.W.T. schools."

That includes maximizing the amount of outside air in the ventilation system,, upgraded filters and an extended run time, according to the department.

The territory also reminded people that counselling services are available to all students, including in-person and virtual support.

A list of services is available on the territory's website.

With files from Rose Danen